Three days of rain bring relief, give boost to region's reservoirs

But officials warn area still `in a serious drought'

October 12, 2002|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,SUN STAFF

In almost any other year, three days of rain in October would have had Marylanders crying for relief.

This time, it was the relief - a squishy, sopping gift from gloriously gray skies.

The first three-day stretch of measurable rain in the Baltimore region since May has soaked the region with 1 to 3 inches of precipitation. The 1.13 inches that fell yesterday at Baltimore-Washington International Airport broke a 97-year- old record for the date.

In all, the three days of rain left a total of 2.08 inches at BWI through 5 p.m. yesterday, according to the National Weather Service. Normal rainfall in October is 3.16 inches at BWI.

The rain was the most from a single event since the remnants of tropical storm Isidore delivered 2.08 inches at the airport Sept. 26 and 27. Only one other event all year delivered more - a 2.35-inch rainfall on Aug. 28-29.

This week's rain was more than enough to get Maryland's wizened creeks rising again.

Little Falls in Baltimore County and Winters Run in Harford - both of which have run at record daily lows for most of the year - were racing yesterday at record high volumes for the date.

The National Weather Service issued flood watches for all of drought-parched Central and Southern Maryland. They were canceled in the afternoon when the heaviest rains moved off to the east.

But as soothing as the slap of wipers and the patter of rain on the roof may have been, water managers quickly doused any notion that the drought emergency in Central Maryland was over.

"This is hopefully a change in the weather pattern," said city public works spokesman Kurt Kocher. "But it doesn't change anything in terms of the drought restrictions. We continue to be in a serious drought."

Baltimore's three reservoirs were beginning to respond yesterday as runoff from the rain began to reach them, Kocher said. "I'm talking about an inch or two in the last day."

But they remained tens of feet below normal levels for the season. After a drop of 6 percent since August, they stood close to the long-term lows they had reached at the beginning of the week - about 42 percent of their combined capacity. Prettyboy stood at 17 percent, Liberty at 35 percent, Loch Raven at 75.

The Susquehanna River, which the city has tapped since January to supplement the depleted reservoirs, also was rising yesterday.

"But we can't depend on the Susquehanna, and we can't depend on continuous rainfall," Kocher said. "And the only thing the public can do to assist is to conserve."

"If businesses haven't cut back yet, or found ways to cut back," he said, "they should certainly be doing that to prevent further shortages later on."

The next significant rain is forecast for late Tuesday and Wednesday.

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